IHO Bogged Down Over East Sea Name

      April 25, 2012 09:22

      The general assembly of the International Hydrographic Organization in Monaco is poised to decide the name for the body of water between Korea and Japan to be used on international maps. The main purpose of the meeting is to decide the latest revision of "Limits of Oceans and Seas," which has served as the standard reference for map production.

      The existing version, which was completed in 1953, uses only "Sea of Japan," but Korea wants it to use "East Sea" as well.

      A draft of the latest revision was prepared in the mid-1980s, but the IHO general assembly was delayed due to a lack of quorum. The row between Korea and Japan over the name has also held up the revision.

      Officials from the two countries frantically lobbied IHO members on Monday and Tuesday but were unable to reach agreement. The IHO will discuss the issue again on Wednesday.

      ◆ 2 Names

      Korea claims it has been using the name "East Sea" for more than 2,000 years, as many old maps testify. Seoul argues that the single name "Sea of Japan" dates to Japan's colonial occupation of Korea and a revision is therefore in order.

      The IHO's regulations and a resolution by a UN conference on the standardization of geographical names also authorize the use of multiple names. For example, the English Channel and the Dover Strait are also referred to as "La Manche" and "Pas de Calais."

      ◆ Japan Against Change

      Japan claims that the name "East Sea" is used solely in Korea and not accepted internationally, whereas "Sea of Japan" has been the internationally used name since its official selection by the IHO in 1929. Both the UN and the U.S. use it as well, according to Tokyo.

      Japan has been telling IHO member countries that there is a lack of decisive evidence against the sole usage of "Sea of Japan" and that it is proper to use only that name if the present stalemate with Korea continues.

      The IHO has traditionally decided on names based on amicable agreement of member nations. But if Korea and Japan fail to settle their differences, the name could be chosen by majority decision.

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